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Remembering to thank those that protect our freedom on Independence Day

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While he's a Bengals and Cowboys fan, my friend that defended our country in the military deserves a shout-out from this Steelers fans.

Independence Day is a wonderful day for a multitude of reasons.

It's a day to enjoy good food with family and friends. It's a day to relax and enjoy local parades and carnivals. Above all, Independence Day is an opportunity to reflect and be thankful for living in the world's greatest country, and to always remember the men and women who have sacrificed to uphold our freedom.

I have one friend, Brad, who served in our great military during the recent War On Terror. At 19 and fresh out of high school, Brad was among country's finest to respond to the terrible aftermath of 9/11. In a matter of minutes, a routine day for Brad on the military base turned into a day that would be crystallized forever as a day that all of us will never forget.

Our independence gives us freedom, the freedom to choose where we want to live, what jobs we want to have, and what teams we want to cheer for, among many other freedoms. Unfortunately for me, Brad has chosen to be a Bengals and Cowboys fan, although I don't know who he'd cheer for if the two every played each other for anything meaningful. He isn't what you would call a shy person, and has vocally cheered against my Steelers whenever we and the rest of our friends get together to watch football. Brad's also a funny guy, so funny that sometimes even I  succumb to laughter at some of the digs he makes at my team.

A few years ago, Brad was honorably discharged from the Army, and in that time has started a family and has begun a new career. While the Army has surely changed him, he's still the same guy, funny, outgoing, and demonstrative about his distaste for all things Pittsburgh. He's also a fiercely loyal friend who would do anything for the people he cares about. In short, he's still Brad.

While I've always had tremendous respect for our military and appreciation for our freedom, it was elevated to a new level when I personally had a friend that defended that freedom when it was most challenged during my lifetime. Brad and others dedication to this country and protecting our freedom enables us to enjoy today, allows me to write this post, and gives us all the peace of mind to pursue our pursuit of happiness.

Independence Day is a chance to celebrate our freedom. It's also a chance to again say 'Thank You' to everyone that ensures us of this freedom, even if he's a Bengals and Cowboys fan that won't ever let you forgot how much he hates the Steelers.